Though down from a peak in April, hundreds of coronavirus cases are still being recorded in the UK every day. There were 758 cases reported on Saturday, along with 55 deaths. However, if a second wave of infections hits the country, the government won’t implement a nationwide lockdown. Instead, the Telegraph reported on Sunday, more vulnerable groups will be asked to stay at home.
This includes the obese. According to one minister, the government will politely ask Britain’s most corpulent citizens to stay at home for their own good.
Perhaps recognizing how offensive such a message will sound, the minister told the Telegraph, “You can’t say that every fat person has to shield. It will be more subtle.”
The government did not confirm this approach, but a spokesman told the newspaper that Downing Street is “looking at doing things in a more targeted way.”
Should the government ask the obese to stay at home, millions of people could be affected.
Some 13 million English adults are classed as obese, a figure that’s almost doubled in 20 years, as a survey last year of the 1997-2017 period shows.
One in four men and nearly one in three women are obese, a situation that’s been described by charity group Diabetes UK as an “urgent public health problem.”
The UK is the third-fattest country in Europe, according to World Health Organization statistics, lumbering in behind Turkey and Malta.
Britain’s weight problem is old news, and successive governments have tried to encourage the population to put down the fork and get some exercise. Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who admitted last month to being “fat,” and claimed to have lost a stone since his own coronavirus diagnosis – recently kicked off a public health campaign, urging Britons to slim down and score points in battling the coronavirus.
However, if a second wave comes about and the Telegraph’s report is true, the most overweight among them may not be able to get out for a cycle, as Johnson recommends.
Staying sedentary and waiting for a vaccine might not be an option either. Researchers in the US predicted earlier this month that any vaccine for the deadly virus will likely be less effective in obese patients. The claim was based on experience with flu and hepatitis vaccinations, which have been proven to be less effective in fatter patients.
“Will [a vaccine] still work in the obese? Our prediction is ‘no,’” a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina said.
Aside from the vaccine woes, a Chinese study at the outset of the pandemic in March found that the obese were more likely to die of COVID-19 than patients at a healthy weight.